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THE SCHOLARS’ AVENUE www.scholarsavenue.org
Remebering Prof. GS Sanyal Page 3
The Art of the Start Page 4
A UGUST 19 2011
When Kgpians pick up the pen Page 5
IIT K HARAGPUR
Into the Mind of a ‘Geek’ Page 8
Campus Facelift An endless maze of 88 classrooms? A heritage building with posh interiors for the Prime Minister? A mammoth Hall with 1500 single rooms? What’s all the noise about?
Know your IP Laws Page 8
The Scholars’ Avenue had a chance to catch up with officials at the Civil Works Department, who updated us on the status of the various construction projects happening around us.
by the end of August, well in time before the Inter-IIT meet. Basketball Courts, Swimming Pool ŸFacelift in progress at basketball court, volleyball court, Gnan Ghosh stadium and swimming pool . ŸWill be ready in time for the Inter IIT Sports Meet.
Student Activity Centre ŸThe entire construction of the
SAC complex is over; finishing work is in progress. ŸGymnasium is up and running,
ŸTwo blocks of the complex are
Glimpses from a Jubilee Mine Page 3
Bhaat Avenue is back Page 7
rooms for Springfest and Kshitij teams are functional. ŸSquash court requires a maple wood finish, rubber surfaces need to be fixed on badminton courts. ŸWork is expected to be complete
ŸSince the Nalanda Complex is not a part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, work has been temporarily de-prioritized causing a slight delay. First Year Laboratory Complex
ŸPhysics and Basic Electronics Labs are ready; only transfer of equipment from the older labs to new location remains. ŸFinishing work in Language and Electrical labs is expected to be complete by September.
ŸThirty classrooms, planned in Slot 1, will be ready for usage in a couple of months. ŸSixty classrooms are expected to be completed by December; a total of eighty-eight classrooms planned. ŸSome classrooms have been designed in semi-circular fashion; others will be rectangular in shape. ŸNew features include laptop connections provided below each seat. ŸSample study to be conducted in end-August, based on which further plan and design of the classrooms in the complex will be carried out.
Tagore Open Air Theatre
ŸRenovation is complete - TOAT has been given a new lease of life.
ŸFreshly renovated green rooms, toilets, extensive electrical wiring and waterproofing. continued on Page 2
The Revised GRE: What You Need to Know T
he Graduate Record Examination, commonly abbreviated as GRE, is a standardized test that needs to be taken for admission to many graduate schools in the USA and other English-speaking countries The GRE General Test, designed by Educational Testing Service (ETS) to test writing, verbal and quantitative skills aims to evaluate students regardless of their undergraduate specialization. Starting August 1, 2011, the GRE has been revamped with the intent to make it more student-friendly. Direct vocabulary questions have been removed and an on-screen calculator is provided for the Quantitative Reasoning section. As a promotional offer, test-takers are being offered a 50% discount on the fee (roughly Rs. 8500) for the months of August and September.
Exam Structure: The GRE consists of 3 types of question sets. The exam starts with A n a l y t i c a l Wr i t i n g , a n d Quantitative and Verbal Sections (see box) follow in random order. In addition to the mentioned sections, the test will contain an Section Type Analytical Writing Qualitative Reasoning Verbal Reasoning
section 3, making the test almost 4 hours in duration.
number, will not detract from your overall score.
How is it evaluated?
The Quantitative and Verbal scores for the revised General Test will each be reported on a 130-170... (continued on Page 4)
Your written pieces are evaluated by experienced GRE readers engaged by ETS. Overall performance for Analytical Writing
Description 1 Section, 2 Tasks 2 Sections, 20 questions each 2 Sections, 20 questions each
Experimental Section disguised as a normal Quantitative/Verbal Section. Your performance in this section will have no bearing on your score, and is intended to help ETS create better tests. You might also receive a Research section at the end of the test, which will contain specific instructions. A 10-minute break is provided at the end of
Time allotted 30 minutes/task 35 minutes/section 30 minutes/section
is reported on a 0-6 scale, in halfpoint increments. Both the tasks will be separately marked on a 0-6 scale (in single point increments), and the scores averaged. Key parameters include depth and quality of your argument; logical flow and use of correct and effective grammatical structures. Minor typos, provided they are few in
The Mark and Review tool The revised GRE, unlike the old version, allows you to come back to a question, provided you have time remaining for that section. The ‘Mark’ button at the top of the interface can be used to highlight a particularly difficult question you want to attempt/revise later. The Review screen, which can be accessed at any time, allows you to quickly navigate to any question (the Marked questions are so indicated). Once you move on from a section, you cannot return to it.
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crowds for the next 20-25 years atleast. Lal Bahadur Shastri Hall of Residence Ÿ140 rooms of LBS are ready, with postgraduate students programme currently accommodated. ŸRemaining work expected to be complete by the end of the year, including 667 rooms for residential purposes and a few special rooms like a yoga room etc. ŸAll rooms will be allotted on a triple sharing basis. B R Ambedkar Hall of Residence ŸPart of BRH will be completed in coming months; students might be accommodated by December 2011. ŸBRH will have all single rooms, instead of the triple rooms that LBS has. ŸWith approximately 1500 rooms, hall is expected to be completed by June 2012. Chanakya Hall of Residence ŸConstruction work is yet to start at this hostel for VGSOM students. ŸSoil testing and other groundwork has been completed and approved ŸHall will be built on a BOT (Build Operate Transfer) basis. VVIP Guest House ŸLocated next to Kendriya Vidyalaya, a heritage building is being converted to a VVIP Guest House. ŸThe Guest House will have six plush executive rooms and a lobby ŸThe Prime Minister will be the first person to reside in the new
"When we can treat all existing persons as human, it will be time enough to think about having more." — Athelstan Spilhaus
Photo: Sourya Dey
esolutions are meant to be broken - that truth is universal. If the construction delays are any indication, one is compelled to conclude that the situation in KGP is no different. Our leaders' vision is commendable and we are part of an institute with world-class infrastructure; but sadly the infrastructure seems to exist on paper only. With about 2000 people making the campus their new home this semester, we are simply not equipped enough to support their needs. Already stressed mess facilities are fighting a losing battle to feed hundreds of hungry mouths. The Scholars' Avenue took a reality check of the present condition and the prognosis is anything but pleasant:
Four people living in one room means you have to adjust to three different daily routines, as opposed to just one in a twinsharing room. It's not only about physical space but also about loss of privacy." - Second Year student.
Second years perhaps have been dealt the worst hand. In almost all boys’ hostels (with the notable exception of RP) they’ve been shepherded either four in a triple sharing room or paired up in a single room. Four students crammed into 3-seater rooms in this oppressive weather is hardly the ideal start to a n e w a c a d e m i c y e a r. Wi t h
facility. Calcutta Guest House ŸIIT Kharagpur’s guest house in Salt Lake, Kolkata is being renovated . ŸFrom ten rooms earlier, it now has sixteen rooms with additional dormitories on the top floor. ŸThe facility is also a tiny educational centre, with some classes on short term courses held there. ŸT h e G u e s t H o u s e w i l l accommodate members of the Prime Minister’s contingent. n
S U N D A Y , 19 T H A U G U S T , 2011
The More the Messier
Construction Updates ŸTOAT should comfortably handle
While new construction saved some messes from the brunt of overcrowding, residents in some halls still have to wait in serpentine queues or dine under makeshift bamboo tents to be served their daily bread, images reminiscent of a flood relief centre. It is a flood, indeed, a flood of humanity on wheels which inundates the Scholars’ Avenue during lunchtime. Cycle stands, in halls as well as the one near the Central Library have long been overflowing, but to no one’s notice, it seems. Students are queuing up to use machines in the overcrowded gymnasium which has already stopped giving forms for new entrants, leaving hundreds who desire admission without the facility.
being felt in multiple aspects of life which begs the question - where did the planning go wrong? Has the number of students grown untimely, without giving thought to how the general quality of lifestyle and academics may be impacted? There are of course possible solutions, they only need to be thought of early enough to be implemented on time. Class timings
The situation came uder control when the M.Sc. students were ultimately removed from PAN which otherwise would have resulted in total chaos. So all I would like to do is plead to the authorities to make room for newcomers before increasing the number of seats" G.Sec. Maintainence, Patel.
Three new halls – Lal Bahadur Shastri, B R Ambedkar, and Chanakya halls of residence were the administration’s answer to this problem. Lal Bahadur Shastri has been delayed by more than two years going by initial estimates. Out of a total of 667 planned rooms, only 124 have been handed over to the HMC. The hostel, which currently houses post-graduate students, doesn’t have LAN, a proper dining hall or a functional kitchen. Food is being prepared elsewhere and being served at a single counter in the hall where long queues are the norm. To add to the discomfort, the on-going construction is a cause of continuous disturbance. Several departmental classes and laboratories are experiencing dilution in quality and intensity in the process of accommodating more students, not to mention that student-teacher interaction is inevitably taking a hit. The planned Nalanda complex is expected to give respite, though one is inclined to believe that a great amount of effort and planning will be required to even maintain the present standards of education. In essence, a lack of resources is
accommodation facilities like these, students are more likely to spend time walking the 2.2 than stay in the confined spaces of their overcrowded rooms. Also notable is how the distribution of students among halls is pointedly skewed. HJB and LLR did not receive any new students this year; their ambitious plans for the GC and Illumination have since, taken a huge hit. In other halls, even third years find themselves struggling for space. RK, Azad, Patel, HJB and SN have them paired up in double rooms.
The mess extension at Azad Hall
The mess is a major cause of concern, especially in RP. Our strength stands at 835, so the condition of the mess is pathetic. You can see students fighting for rotis or waiting in queues for 15 minutes. I hope all these issues will be resolved once LBS gets completed." G.Sec Maintainence, RP.
can be staggered, with systematic The mess at the new LBS Hall
variation aimed at minimising sudden Oload on the messes NLINE N EWS especially during lunch hours. Facilities for games and sports need to be in some kind of proportion with the growing population, otherwise we might end up compromising on too many fronts. Here's hoping that the future brings successful execution of well thought out plans to make life productive for every individual on campus. n
THE SCHOLARS’ AVENUE
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Glimpses from a Jubilee mine
ailing down the river of time, we find it befitting every now and then to slow down and study the distance traveled thus far. To observe how events have unfolded and look at patterns that have e m e r g e d . We g a t h e r t h e achievements and highlight them, sieve out defining occasions and commemorate them, seek both grand and unnoticed tales and recite them. We develop a feeling of there being a special quality in the passage of time and decide to mark it; we make arrangements, send out invitations and lay out plans to celebrate it. Jubilees then, in a sense, are crystallizing in a mine over the years, slowly acquiring the characteristics that one day make them desirable enough for us to dig deep and extract them. These we regard as the ornaments of time.
heels of the inauguration, the bamboo framework that will support a renovated TOAT’s cloak for the convocation is visible and there’s a buzz about the PM visiting Kgp. Many renowned voices will speak on the impact of IITKgp, and making the best of this time will also involve stepping out of the trees to look at the wood. Important questions such as what the future course of action could be, both at the institute and the personal level, can be asked by the administration and individuals. This is an interesting time to be around.
include astrology in university curriculum was criticised by the CM. Joshi, citing recent Government expenditure on a telescope in Ladakh, retorted that they were “not mixing up astronomy with astrology”, a comment that shot to local fame. The Chief Guest of the 47th convocation was C. Rangarajan, Governor of AP. In his address he discussed technology innovation and diffusion considering an open economy and the important role of the Government and universities alongside private industries.
The Scholars’ Avenue wondered what the previous jubilee celebrations were like: what their memorable features were, which personalities made an appearance and so on. We did a bit of our own mining and came across some valuable nuggets we’d like to share.
A number of aspects that have become an integral part of the lifestyle here today were initiated around that time. The SBI ATM, for example. But more importantly, the institute LAN! It was then that the massive project was carried out with help from the IIT Foundation. Academic projects undertaken by the institute included the beginning of the Medical Science and Te c h n o l o g y Course and setting up the Ramanujan Complex. Similar to this year, Kgp played host to the inter-IIT in 2001. While Spring Fest was around, the technology fest was an Ideon in place of Kshitij.
Good as Gold We o b t a i n e d p i c t u r e s a n d documents belonging to the Golden Jubilee celebrations held in 2001 from Prof. Sadananda Sahu of IEM, who coordinated the inauguration and convocation that year. A reading of the calendar revealed that conferences, workshops conducted by various departments and alumni meets were the order of the year. Nobel Laureates delivered Golden Jubilee Lectures.
As IIT Kharagpur with its undoubtedly long history and significant status welcomes the Diamond Jubilee, a spectacle on a large scale is assured. Close on the
Murli Manohar Joshi, the then Union Minister for Human Resource Development and then West Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee were amongst those present for the inauguration. The Centre’s decision at that time to
The Silver Lining In a throwback to Nehru visiting Kgp in 1951, PM Indira Gandhi, with her own silver lining of hair, was Chief Guest of the convocation in 1976, the year of the Silver Jubilee
c e l e b r a t i o n s . We f o u n d considerably less archives from this period though. One was Director C. S. Jha’s convocation address. The image presented is that of a younger institute, where some of the most remarkable achievements were in experimenting with academics & curriculum. IITKgp set up basic science departments, pioneered post-graduate courses and started shortterm courses. “Courses have been proliferating, the student population has gone up ten times and the faculty position a little less than [sic] so; with the physical facilities trying to keep pace with this tremendous surge forward, the Indian Institute of Technology can certainly be said to have come of age,” he said. Like a Diamond in the Sky What’s it going to take to give you that ‘I was there!’ feeling when you think back to being in Kgp in 201112? For starters, the Curtain Raiser will be held on 21st evening in the Tata Sports Complex, where the world’s largest calendar is planned to be unveiled. “The idea is to honour our predecessors and demonstrate our unity,” says Prof. B.K. Mathur. Consider additionally, an eminent line-up of guest lectures throughout the year, including the likes of a few Nobel Laureates, and this could be a very enjoyable experience. Here’s wishing this is cut out to be one brilliant gem of a year. n
Remembering Prof. GS Sanyal T
he 'Grand Old Man' of IIT Kharagpur, Prof. Gitindra Saran Sanyal passed away this summer on July 7th, leaving the worldwide Kgp community in tears. He was 89. He is survived by a son in the USA. The void created by his demise is going to be a very difficult one to get used to. The Scholars' Avenue decided to rediscover the legacy of the last 'IIT-Adivasi' – the first batch of Professors who took it upon themselves to embark on a path of teaching and leading technology education in modern India. Early Life Prof. Sanyal lived in a time of political turmoil, when India was fighting for its independence, but he never let that become a hurdle in his quest for knowledge. At the age of 22, he went to England to study Radio Engineering and Radar Systems and obtained his General and Advanced Diploma. He worked at Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company for four years before joining Calcutta University as a lecturer. He eventually joined IIT Kharagpur in 1954, beginning a long and fruitful association. Such was his devotion to Kgp, that he never
stopped working till his last day. 'Gurudev’ He was loved and revered by all his students and faculty alike. He was like a father-figure to his students helping them in times in need. He imbibed in his students a thirst for learning and taught them to be good human beings above great engineers. Scientist extraordinaire Such was his expertise in the field of Communication that DRDO built the Radar and Communication Centre (RCC) for assisting his research. He was also the recipient of numerous awards and honours for his research on Electromagnetism, Microwave antennas, Phased arrays and Optical fibers. His immense contribution
to the field of Communication engineering was recognized through the award of D.Sc (Doctor of Science) Honoris Causa at the 49th convocation. He had seen it all in his long and illustrious career – Head of the Department, Gymkhana President, Dean, Deputy Director, Director and then coming back as Emeritus Professor. As an icing on the cake, one of his students, Arjun Malhotra (co-founder of HCL) established the GS Sanyal School of Telecommunication (GSST) in his honour.
After establishing GSST, Prof. Sanyal sent postcards to his family informing them that if they saw his name in the newspapers, they need not worry, he was still alive.
As Director He was the director of IIT Kharagpur from 1983-87, which was a very troubled time. Back to back strikes by the mess-workers' and teachers' union had crippled the institute and was in danger of falling to political anarchy. Never hesitant to take bold decisions, he had the vision and determination to save the
institute from derailment. He always had a soft corner for the underprivileged. He committed himself to social welfare in his later years by starting a micro-finance project for deserving people in and around the campus.
One of his students in the early 60's took a course at VGSOM. Prof. Sanyal amazed him by attending all his lectures, sitting on the front bench. “Just reciprocating what you did 40 years earlier,” was his reply.
Post-Retirement G.S. Sanyal never let age get the better of him. He was instrumental in setting up STEP (Science and Technology Entrepreneurs Park) and the extension campus at Salt Lake, Kolkata. He used his wide network of contacts for the benefit of IIT. He was instrumental in nurturing the missing bond between the IITs and their alumni, laying the foundation of the IITalumni relationship which soon became a global event – PAN IIT. He joined VGSOM in an advisory role and continued publishing research papers till his final days. n
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² S U N D A Y , A U G U S T 19 T H 2011
hen over 7000 inventive minds are boxed together, great things are bound to result. Welcome to the start-up culture of Kgp. Where an innovative idea and a clever name for an organization can make you a CEO overnight. Read on, and get started on building your own massive business empire.
value written by students. CompTalks Farms ‘n Farmers
IITians For Youth
The results of those post-12th standard examinations confuse you. You could do with some good advice, but -This is where IFY extends its helping hand. IFY is a start-up that provides mentorship and directional assistance to pre-college students to help them make better decisions regarding their choice of branch and institute for their undergraduate degree. Founded in 2010 by a group of IIT Kharagpur students, the organization hopes to eradicate misguided career decisions. Current activities include a recently conducted workshop ‘Endeavour’ at Patna, which was attended by over three thousand students between from classes 9 to 12, and their parents. Also, a magazine called ‘Inception’ is expected to be launched shortly, which will contain articles with inspirational and/or informational
At a time when the government is accused of not doing enough to alleviate the sufferings of Indian farmers, two IITians have taken it upon themselves to help their agrarian brethren. FnF is an NGO and non-profit organization which works towards the betterment of the general condition of farmers and farming techniques employed in the northern states of India. Since it was founded in 2010 by 2 IIT alumni – one from Kgp, and one from Delhi - FnF has provided technical assistance to farmers in Rampur, Kurlahiya, Hemnagar, Nabigarha, and also in Vaishali district in Bihar, where it is working to improve the efficiency of the banana fibre extraction process. The organization aims to help farmers achieve long-term profits, and to make farming a more enjoyable and lucrative occupation. With a good number of technical professionals in such diverse fields as horticulture, soil testing, and organic farming, it is hoped that FnF will help the Indian farmer smile again.
A team expansion. An offline magazine. A rejected takeover attempt. A partnership with a leading news channel. It's been a tumultuous yet exciting year for Bishwajeet Mahato of CompTalks. What started off as a blog post to help his friends get rid of a common computer virus has blossomed into an immensely popular technology blog, with over 13,000 users and 700,000 monthly page views. CompTalks covers the happenings of the tech world, and offers computer solutions and tips to its followers. After an initial period of stagnation, Bishwajeet recruited members on the back of his expansion plans, and a few months later came out with an offline magazine targeted at engineering colleges, which met with considerable enthusiasm. CompTalks was the subject of an acquisition offer during the summer, but Bishwajeet resisted the temptation of big bucks as he felt CompTalks could grow to another level during his last year in Kgp. He also struck a partnership with the TV channel 'ET Now', making CompTalks the online partner of a show covering fledgling start-ups, called ‘Starting Up’. When asked where he sees CompTalks in five years' time, Bishwajeet, whose name literally means Conqueror of the World, replies, ‘I'd like it to become the TechCrunch of India.'
Tips for cracking the Revised GRE continued from Page 1
...scale in single point increments. This means that even if you get all questions wrong, your score stands at 260, with the maximum possible being 340. After all questions have been answered, Your raw score (based on the number of questions you attempt successfully) is normalized by taking into account the difficulty of questions and the day of the examination. There is no negative marking for individual questions. The new GRE scoring scale is not ready yet, and scores will be reported starting in mid-November for students taking the test in August and Dos Use the 10-minute break to freshen up, maybe grab a quick snack. Attempting the first three sections in succession can be quite taxing, and you want to be refreshed and alert for the next 90-100 minutes. For the Analytical Writing section, focus on keeping your language clean and your logic lucid. Flowery words and convoluted sentences are not required. Your Passport is the only accepted ID Card. Make sure to check for its expiry. Also keep a government issued secondary ID like PAN card or Driving license handy. Make sure you don’t forget to take a print-out of your confirmation E-mail.
September. However, a tentative score range on the old scale (200-800 for each section) is displayed at the end of the test. While the old GRE was a Computer Adaptive Test (correctly answering a question meant getting a tougher one next up), the revised GRE is a Multi Stage Test, which means that all the questions within a particular section carry equal weight. However, the difficulty of the next Verbal/Quantitative section depends on your performance in the first. How to Prepare As most people find the Quantitative Reasoning sections of the GRE comparatively easy, preparation for the exam is generally associated with learning by heart the 3,500 words listed out by the famous Barron’s. However, the new pattern ensures that mugging overtly difficult words is neither necessary nor sufficient. The difficulty level of direct vocabulary Don’ts Don’t get distracted by easy questions, especially in the QR section. They might be followed by a tricky one and you might just overlook your mistake. Don’t worry about learning by heart the meanings of inordinately difficult words. The challenge lies in understanding a phrase/word’s usage.
testing has decreased significantly, and the focus is now on your understanding of the subtleties of sentence construction. While knowing the meanings of so-called 'high frequency' words and other commonly used words is important, ensure that you also understand words in their proper contexts. Reading Comprehension questions test your ability to analyze the text's meaning and to understand the purpose of language tools employed by the author. Reading issue-centric articles in eminent publications such as Wall Street Journal, Time and Frontline regularly should help develop the skills necessary to tackle these questions. Make sure you develop the habit of reading critically: try to keep a track of the main points being made, and how examples and grammar are used to make a point. In tandem with regular practice, this should also enhance the effectiveness of your writing. Practice is very important: take fully timed practice tests to familiarize yourself with the interface and question types. There are quite a few books which provide practice questions and general tips for the revised GRE. The test-makers, ETS, have released their own guide, as have Kaplan and Barron’s. A variety of free material can be found online as well, on websites like The Princeton Review and GREEdge. n
MartAGain A novel initiative by two Kgpians, MartAGain is a platform for incampus o n l i n e transaction s of books, gadgets, bicycles and other items. It aims to connect sellers with prospective buyers using the interface of social networking, with features such as ‘liking’ a product to convey interest. MartAGain alpha was launched on April 1, and by the end of the semester had over a thousand users, 140 items put up for sale and 40 successful transactions. MartAGain itself doesn't gain anything from these transactions – it is purely adsupported. When quizzed about their immediate plans, Subhajyoti Ghosh, Head of Communications and Marketing, says they will soon be starting operations in several universities including NUS, Singapore and PDPU Gandhinagar. Things look promising for MartAGain, which is faring well oncampus despite the founder graduating and taking up a job. Estumart With a total revenue of Rs.272,400 in 40 days, EstuMart's first outing was a laudable success. Basically an online shopping portal designed withKgp students in m i n d , Estumart attempts to improve the daily shopping experience of Kgpians. Conceptualized in early 2011 by Anubhav Pratap Singh, EstuMart began its operations during midMarch in Kharagpur. It strives to reduce the price of products and offer substantial discounts by efficiently cutting down on the supply chain and acting as a direct link between companies and students. Operations were shut on 27th April, the end of the previous semester, and there has been no activity ever since. But with such a promising outing the last time, it doesn’t seem unwise to bet on the event that it’ll be back – bigger this time. n
O NLINE N EWS To read these articles online and to give your feedback on them, please visit our website at www.scholarsavenue.org. The website provides the latest campus news through our coverage of events as they happen. Send letters to the editor at: firstname.lastname@example.org
T EAM S CHOLSAVE Executive Editors : Abhirajika (8001853469), Amiya Adwitiya (9832840782), Arvind Sowmyan (7407139549) Editors: Achyut Bihani, Chirag Tibrewal, Deepesh Kumar, Hridya Ravimohan, Indra Saha, Mahtab Soin, Parth Govil, Rishabh Poddar Asst. Editors: Abhijeet Tallavajhula, Adarsh Mathew, Ajay Viswanathan, Debadrita Das, Koulick Ghosh, Madhurima Kumar, Pranav Rao, Pravin Sharma, Sagnik Chakraborty, Suvinay Seth Reporters: Akhilesh Prasad, Jatan Buch, Sayak Bhattacharya, Siddhant Wahal
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² F R I D A Y , A U G U S T 19 T H , 2011
When Kgpians Pick Up the Pen T
he versatility of IITians is renowned. Deft at surviving sun and rain, they have distinguished themselves in a host of careers and professions. Quite a few have conquered the literary world. In this issue, The Scholars’ Avenue takes a look at Kgpians who have looked beyond green plains to emerge as successful authors. Anish Sarkar (Mechanical Engineering, 1995) :
Appointed as the Head of Consulting, Capgemini India earlier this month, this IIT-IIM graduate has managed to sway critics with his debut novel Benaami. Driven by corporate ennui and the desire for distinction, Sarkar spent five years researching themes like reincarnation and the Sepoy Mutiny, and creating his own fantastical tale of rebirth juxtaposed with India's struggle for freedom. Benaami is the story of a software developer who has recurring dreams of his past incarnation as the initiator of a secret society called Benaami in the mid-nineteenth century, devoted to the cause of extirpating British Imperialism in India. Aided by a charming history professor, he sets out on a quest to solve the mystery of his past and then follows the battle between time and destiny. Two tangled plots, presented with spectacular transitions between the past and present, complete with a romantic angle and a villain, this novel has the perfect cognitive content for a superhit movie. All in all, Benaami is a page-turner and keeps the reader thrilled with suspense till the end. Arjun Sen (Aerospace Engineering, 1986) : Founder of the management consultancy firm ZenMango, Arjun Sen used to believe in an adage that
his corporate stair-climbing friend once revealed to him- “To achieve larger glories in life you have to sacrifice smaller things”. That was until he had an epiphany and realized that he had gotten his priorities wrong. Nudged by his daughter, he promptly gave up his successful career and started his home based marketing consultancy business so that he could be with his daughter. He recounts the innumerable ways and gestures in which his daughter turned him into a better father by her charm, love and care in Raising a Father. Above all, he chanced upon a new way of measuring success. A delightful read, it will send that warm fuzzy feeling down your spine, when you turn over the last page.
Raj Kamal Jha (Mechanical Engineering, 1987) :
With his three novels, Jha has established a reputation of not shying away from exploring the remote recesses of human souls, places where other authors fear to tread. Sandipan Deb (Electronics and Electrical Communication Engineering, 1985):
After his first encounter with journalism as the editor of the campus magazine, Alankar, Raj P a u l K a l r a ( E l e c t r i c a l Kamal Jha took a leap of faith and Engineering) : enrolled himself in a journalism course in The University of Hailing from a country where the Southern California. He emerged out of the shadows in 2000, with his first novel, The Blue Bedspread which garnered rave reviews from the literati. A series of vignettes strung together around a newborn child, it is a sordid saga of violence, abuse and incest in a dysfunctional An engineer turned journalist, Indian family. His concise prose Sandipan Deb is famous for penning brings to life the sights and sounds of down The IITians, a book revolving Calcutta in a convincing manner around the IITs. He examines the and you find yourself teleported in history of the IITs since inception, the midst of the hustle and bustle of the lives of its star alumni and the the city. Using evocative imagery challenges before the institution, bereft of dialogue and a narrative most notably, the curbs on freedom that shifts back and forth across of expression. Delving into these time, Jha manages to strike a chord aspects, he tries to identify factors with the reader and keep him that make the archetypal IITian tick. It's not the classroom learning hooked. caste system once prevailed, Paul that ultimately matters, he reckons. Kalra scrutinizes the American social structure and offers an After The Blue Bedspread, Jha went A recurring theme in his book is that unbiased outlook. A venerated on to write If You Are Afraid of the successful IITian is defined Electrical engineer from IIT Heights , in which the lines between more by the education he received Kharagpur, with an M.S.E.E. from reality and fantasy blur as daily outside his classroom. Illinois Institute of Technology, realities of contemporary Urban Chicago and a MBA from the India are mirrored by the This book will resonate particularly U n i v e r s i t y o f P i t t s b u r g a s hallucinations of its denizens. He well with Kgpians, because the accompaniments, Kalra felt obliged makes use of his experience as a author recounts several interesting to America for rewarding his journalist covering the Gujarat riots anecdotes and incidents from his talents, but at the same time for The Indian Express in his most student life in Kharagpur like the perturbed by the glaring class recent novel, Fireproof. A chilling famed RK-Nehru rivalry and the tale in which the murdered whisper 'weirdoes and wastrels' from his distinction predominant there. from beyond the grave, Fireproof batch. Although it cannot be tagged His first book, The American Class examines the collective evil as the definitive bible on IITs, it System: Divide and Rule, published ordinary humans are capable of nevertheless is a must-read for in 1995, brings forth the existence of perpetrating when their identity is everyone associated with this remarkable institution. n disparities in terms of wealth in the threatened. American social strata. His twentyyear long quest for finding answers to his skepticism about the Civil War, which involved five wholly dedicated years, came to an end only new dual degree course, tailor-made to meet the growing demand with the release of his 300-page for qualified design engineers, has been introduced at IIT narrative, From Slave to Kharagpur. Coordinated by the Department of Industrial Engineering Untouchable: Lincoln’s Solution, and Management, the course offers B. Tech. (Hons.) in Engineering which reveals that the most ruthless Product Design and Manufacturing and M. Tech. in Design and Quality war fought in America was a class Engineering. The programme will be taught under two broad verticals war and not an attempt to abolish Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Electronics, one of which will be slavery. It is laudable as to how an allotted to students at the end of their first year based on their choice and Electrical engineer, neither Black CGPA. The syllabus will focus on Engineering Design, Quality and nor White, delved deep into the Manufacturing Issues and various other engineering aspects concerning factual details of this aspect of products in these two fields. A six month internship at organizations American history, read over a working on product design and development has been included in the hundred works on slavery and surecurriculum for students to gain hands on experience. The sanctioned footedly condemned the American strength of this course is 14 students. class system.
New Course Announced
he Tech industry has had a splendid run the past few years. With startups like Foursquare, Dropbox, Twitter and LinkedIn coming up with great and simpleto-use products, tech has finally turned mainstream. So mainstream actually, that we even had a nomasala-barred hollywood movie about a certain spunky whiz-kid last year! As giants like Apple and Google manage to break the $100 entry barrier for smart phones, all the tech we were talking about above, everything that we have painstakingly built on the internet, is finally within the reach of the aam aadmi. And when this happens, when tech stops being some kind of geek luxury and moves to being an integral part of everyone's life, that's when we begin to talk about the moolah. Nothing illustrates this more than LinkedIn's recent IPO, which valued the fledgling company at $4 billion (more?). When we are talking about money of this scale, any organisation would want to protect its magic tricks and other funda from being copied by its competitors. Enter the patents. A storm is brewing in Silicon Valley. Swords are being sharpened, loyalties are being questioned and escape routes are being charted. New recruits are cautiously verified before being absorbed into a company's fold. And do you know what the sad part is? All these measures are not about innovation or cost-cutting or shipping that cool new product. It is about litigation and protecting yourself from patents. Yes, the very same patents which were supposed to deter copy-cats, 'protect' your idea, ensure a continuous revenue stream, and by accomplishing all this, encourage more ideas. At the heart of the problem is how the patents are awarded, especially in software. You can patent an 'idea' and hold rights over its implementation for 20 years. And here's the catch: software is much less about an 'idea' and so much more about how it is executed finally through code. An interesting example is of a patent owned by an unknown Chris Crawford who was awarded a patent for "an online back-up system" back in 1998. So legally speaking, you (or your service provider) have to pay royalty every time you share pictures on Facebook, or upload to Dropbox or watch a video on
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Patently Absurd Youtube. Apart from the fact that implementing an idea takes much more effort than proposing it, the other glaring thing about this patent is that it is so broad. Patents like these have given rise to a new breed of greedy companies dubbed as 'Patent trolls'. All they do is collect a portfolio of such patents and sue companies, often startups because they can't afford the legal costs, or force them into profit sharing agreements. Of note here is that these patent trolls have no intention of actually shipping a product utilizing all those patents they have accumulated. So, ironically patents - which were con ceptu alized to promote innovation - are now being used to stifle it.
was that if any competitor did gain access to the patents, they could sue the others into submission. The takeaway is that market dominance no longer depends on how impressive your technology is. It is about how large your patent portfolio is and how much legal muscle you can afford to protect it. And yeah, those patents were finally sold for a whopping $4.5 billion to a consortium of Microsoft, Apple and others. Scientists who were involved in those patents claim the amount offered now is magnitudes more than what was spent initially on research. And why exactly should we be worried about all this? In the case above, should the winning consortium decide to sue Google with their patents, we would lose an entire ecosystem of
against app developers working on Apple's iOS platform recently. Instead of going after Apple whose infrastructure is being used, developers are being picked on as they are easy targets, and find it far more expensive to contest the validity of the patent in court than settling.
If you are a startup, be sure to do enough research in your domain. For instance, if you are into ecommerce, as is the fad these days, you should know that a patent for "online shopping cart" exists since 1998. This has caused quite some loss to small retailers who have the feature implemented in their website. It is rather a relief that India has thus far resisted attempts to introduce software patents under the ambit of Indian law, as computer programs already enjoy copyright protection. Also, patents are only applicable in the countries they have been filed in, so you should be safe from litigation so long as you restrict your business within the country. But that beats the whole point of the internet, doesn't it? One big battle in recent times is around a massive patent portfolio owned by Nortel, a telecommunications company that declared bankruptcy in 2009. Being a pioneer in its field, it had amassed quite a few patents - 6000 to be precise - some of them implementable today, most of them simply ideas for the distant future. When these patents first went up on the market last year, there was hardly any buzz about them until Google put up an initial bid for $900 million, hoping to buy them up as "a defense to discourage litigation" from other companies and promised not to use it aggressively to target competitors. Meanwhile, the race for the patents had heated up with RIM, Microsoft, Ericsson and Apple too throwing their hats into the ring. The premise
products (Android). These products which brought the internet to the reach of the masses, and an open source platform that could well evolve into the next big thing, could be dragged to a complete stop. Apart from costs for needless patents acquired, expensive legal costs to fight patent trolls off will now be borne by you, the consumer. With all those crushed startups, disruptive products you have come to expect and love will become a rarity. Fewer alternatives in the market would drive up prices of available ones automatically. It would have a direct impact on your livelihood if you were an independent developer. A patent troll called 'Lodsys' filed cases
Whatever precautions you take, Intellectual Property can be a tricky bog to navigate. The need of the hour is an upheaval of the patent system and some enlightenment on the intricacies of the system. But until the legislators figure it out, your best bet is to stay as wellinformed as you can about any possible patents your software may be stepping on, and keep legal counsel handy. Hopefully that cool weekend project of yours can survive long enough that you can successfully defend yourself when the trolls come sniffing; or, if by some stroke of luck you really have something that is novel and unique and (gasp!) not already patented, make sure you file for one as soon as possible before somebody else decides the idea was theirs .n
Network Failure? One of the best things about life in Kgp is the internet. Lightning fast and amazingly reliable, the Local Area Network connecting all the hostels and the academic complex has established a stellar reputation for itself. However, with the DNS servers not responding a couple of times and routine problems with the DC++ hub, the last few weeks have been quite damaging for its credibility. Though the internet connectivity has been restored, the frequent
changing of the hub address, repeated failures of the main hub (10.110.1.110) and an overall decrease in the amount of data shared have left many complaining. These problems have arisen after the DC++ server was shifted to RK this year. A quick chat with the DC++ admin reveals that a technical flaw in the Router in the hall server was the initial culprit behind the defaulting of the main hub. The recurring problem was resolved with the
support of the CIC, and full functionality was restored after almost a week. While the main hub was down, the backup hub (10.111.11.111) continued to function with its server in RP and many users switched over. H o w e v e r, u s e r s w e r e n o t automatically redirected to the main hub when things became normal. As a result, there has been a significant decrease in the amount of data being shared on the main hub. The conflict is now being
addressed by the hub administrators. The situation has now normalized, and we hope that the present arrangement continues more effectively. With a new server all set to replace the ageing AMD server shortly, and with the automatic redirection of users to the main hub, the sharing size is surely going to rise in the next couple of days. The good old days are all set to return again.
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’ve had jinxes cast upon me, felt the heat of dragon fire and been disassembled by Transformers over the past few weeks. I caught the biggest summer blockbusters in 3D, paying for the show a fee that had me crying ‘Unfair!’ and putting on blockish glasses that my nose protested to bear, to gain that amazing as-close-to-life-aspossible experience. Thoroughly enjoyable the movies certainly were, sometimes the form more than the content. A few frames forward and here I am back in Kgp, annoyingly coated with dust that’s colonized the room I’m supposed to shift into. Coiled lines of people in the mess with famished mouths present a face no less threatening than a Nagini. ‘All this is just too damn real,’ is what the subtitles to my thoughts read as I’m pictured riding in the rain, drops falling right into my eyes. It was while proudly ticking off my vacation list of films during a reunion bhaat session that the thought lit up in me and I pushed the pause on our conversation. Before seeking to make more palpable the unreal, I
had to do something about the disagreeable real. I was decidedly going to stem the assault Kgp was making on my senses and reduce its reality, all with my own 2D glasses. I lifted my invention right out of a drawing I made on a piece of paper.
The flimsy little thing had no thickness itself and I had to walk wearing it with a degree of concern resembling an affected high-andmighty manner. But what a spectacle it was! Swarms of people, shoved to the distance. The cat in the mess has one
direction less to leap in. Magellan vanishes and pops up at the other end of a line. The world reduced to a single plane of perception. Minute details gone, the mind left free to appreciate shapes and forms. A heightened ability of comparison developed due to an unbiased juxtaposition. Physicists may be enthusiastic of twenty-six dimensions to explain gravity, but I preferred to migrate to a spherecircle, rather- of simplicity where life moves as a strip with the passage of time. Over there! In that panel can be spotted newfound friends, the geometric shapes of Flatland, Calvin and Hobbes. The act had to be cut short though, this plot device presented unseen difficulties. I bumped into walls, sinister lecture notes were unchanged under the glasses and there was admittedly a loss of dimension in sensation. The glasses could only offer a point of view after all. I continue to believe that Kgp can be best looked at through an unconventional lens and plan to don it occasionally. Now where is it? I must’ve placed it on an edge...the flimsy little thing... n
There is a popular consensus among us KGPians that we essentially lead an unburdened, almost phased-out life. ‘Peace hai’ seems almost ubiquitous. Alas! How wrong we are, because equally common is the utterance of the words ‘Fight maarna’ in different grammatically correct/incorrect forms. Be it an Ihave-seen-all-there-is-to-be seen fifth year or an overly optimistic batchmate, the idea of the neversay-die attitude is fairly pronounced. We here at TSA felt it is time somebody gave these ‘pearls of wisdom’ a more structured existence before a Chetan Bhagat decides to make a pay-day out of it (Shh!!You know your role, don’t you?). Our search for structure led us to the pre-Christian era treatise on military stratagems, “The Art of War” authored by the formidable Sun Tzu; behold the wisdom shared: This is us, extending our sympathies to our second-year readers who are not exactly having a ball being ‘oriented’ (or disoriented, take your pick!) to the ways of the world. Cramming close to 300 odd names, participating in rites of passage of naturalism and doing the ‘firefly’ dance, it is in situations like these that Sun-Tzu’s words “ The Skillful Warrior first ensures his own invulnerability; then he waits for the enemy’s vulnerability “ gain monumental importance. “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”, a seemingly innocuous adage most of you would have heard (or read…seriously?!) is definitely the need of the hour come GC season. How else do you think can you, the self-fashioned protector of the Hall’s tradition, cook up devilish schemes reeking of filthy ‘poltu’ to deride the enemy’s campaign and have the sweet taste of victory for oneself? A slip of tongue or a sleight of hand is all it takes to make a difference at the top of the points table. Who would know this better than the one with the knowledge of Sun-Tzu’s art? There are times, even in KGP of all places, when everything seems to take the downward spiral, all dreams shattered, all roads blocked (and no, we are not referring to the present condition of the campus in throes of ‘infrastructure upheaval”) and all doors slammed in your face. Don’t despair! Sun-Tzu coined a term ‘shi’ which roughly translates to”the art of understanding matters in a state of flux”, sit back and let it sink into you that ‘shi’ happens and you cannot do anything about it; except maybe…wage a war? Ha-ha, gotcha! n
Did you know? Ever wondered how PT sheets came about? Professor Robert Adolf Kraus (1898-1970), the first professor of the Institute and HOD of Mechanical, created a lab called Production Technology. Hence ‘PT’. Papa Kraus, as he was fondly known, worked in Czechoslovakia before meeting J.C. Ghosh, the first Director. He later also worked for the establishment of IIT Madras.
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Interview with Angela Saini On the bestseller lists for quite some time now, Geek Nation delves into the lives of the inventors, engineers and young scientists that are powering India's scientific revolution, steadily shaping up the country as a scientific superpower. We interviewed the author, British Science Journalist, Angela Saini, to learn more.
used to develop a new drug for tuberculosis. This disease kills two Indians every three minutes, and yet there hasn't been a new cure for around 40 years. So it's exciting to see such a radical approach to drug discovery being used to come up with a low-cost, effective solution. I just hope it works.
TSA: You have studied engineering at Oxford University. What was the motivation behind transitioning to science journalism as a career?
AS: I did some student journalism at Oxford and really enjoyed it. Although I love science and engineering, my personal passion is writing, so I decided to give journalism a shot when I left university. It turned out to be a good choice, because there are few reporters out there who are comfortable enough with science and maths to report on these kinds of issues effectively. Today, I love my job. TSA: While researching for Geek Nation, what were the examples of scientific insight (if there were any) from India that stood out as particularly revolutionary and pathbreaking? AS: I think the most unusual was open source science, which is being
... open source science, which is being used to develop a new drug for tuberculosis. This disease kills two Indians every three minutes, and yet there hasn't been a new cure for around 40 years ...
TSA: In your book, you mention a peculiar combination of science and pseudoscience that seem to go together in the Indian scientific establishment. How do you think this contradiction can be resolved? AS: Well, it's not so much a combination of science and pseudoscience as a sitting of the two next to each other. It's certainly not the case that serious laboratory researchers or engineers turn to superstition to air their work. On the one hand, I think tolerating a broad spectrum of views and ideas is a good thing because it removes intellectual limits. But on the other hand, there does need to be a stronger scientific establishment to take a stand when there is hokum or fraud.
TSA: Your visit to IIT Delhi must have given you a glimpse into how the IIT’s function. How do you think they compare with the best of the world? What can be done to transform them from hubs of 'drones' to hubs of 'geeks' ? AS: I think it's already happening - I met many inquisitive, entrepreneurial IIT students on my travels. The key is to transform the IITs from plain teaching colleges to outstanding research institutions, and to some extent, there have already been moves by the faculties to encourage that. Students need to learn that staying on to to do a PhD and further research can be good for their careers. TSA: Are IIT's and IISc at the forefront of technological advancement in India, as is widely believed, or is there more to Indian science then just these premier institutions? AS: While the institutes are great at producing talent, they're certainly not the best at producing research and innovation. That honour belongs to organisations like TIFR, CSIR and other private and government laboratories. TSA: On a macrolevel, is the institutional mechanism to promote scientific research in place in India?
AS: Well, I think more could be done to remove hierarchies and promote a culture of reward that truly promotes young talent. This would make research institutions more attractive places to work at. Also, of course, funding into research and development needs to be ramped up across the board. TSA: Finally, now that 'Geek Nation' is on best-seller lists, what are your future plans? Any book we should watch out for? AS: I've been thrilled with the response to Geek Nation, and I definitely plan to write more books in the future. What they will be about and when the next one will come is a mystery for now. I'm still mulling it over! In the meantime, I would love it if IIT Kharagpur students would join the Geek Nation Facebook page so I can hear/see their thoughts. TSA: We would love to have you here. Are you planning to visit IIT Kharagpur anytime soon? AS: If that is an invite, then consider it received! I would love to come and visit the campus... Just let me know when. n